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Venus - Introduction

The second planet in our Solar System is Venus. Often called Earth's twin, the properties of Venus are far from. While the density and radius are similar to Earth as is the presence of an atmosphere, the atmosphere properties and rotation are very different.

Like Mercury, Venus does not have a satellite moon (and Mercury and Venus are the only two planets of our Solar System that do not have any moons).

Some features of Venus:

  • High levels of carbon dioxide result in a "runaway" greenhouse effect, trapping solar radiation resulting in very high temperatures
  • 243 day retrograde rotation - its rotates very slow and backwards
  • Extremely high atmospheric winds - 360 km/h - yet mild breeze near the surface
  • Hurricane sized vortexes at the poles with double-vortex at the south pole
  • Upper atmosphere sulfuric acid clouds prevent views to surface - infrared camera allow some view
  • Lower atmosphere mostly clear, cloud cover ends 45 km from the surface
  • Sulfuric acid rain
  • Atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth
  • Extreme temperature makes the idea of water not possible

Venus - A Quick Summary: (More detail here: Venus Fact Sheet)

Average Distance from Sun: 1.082 x 108 km
Eccentricity of Orbit: 0.0068
Average Orbital Speed: 35.0 km/s
Orbital Period: 224.70 days
Rotational Period: 243.01 days (retrograde rotation)
Inclination of Equator to Orbit 177.4
Diameter: 12,104 km
Mass: 4.869 x 1024 kg
Average Density: 5243 kg/m3
Escape Speed: 10.4 km/s
Albedo: 0.59
Maximum Surface Temperature: N/A Constant Temperature
Minimum Surface Temperature: N/A Constant Temperature
Average Surface Temperature: 460 C
Atmospheric Composition: 96.5% Carbon Dioxide
3.5% Nitrogen
0.003% Water Vapor

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It's common knowledge that the atmosphere of Venus is poisonous to us. Venus Express has been studying the atmosphere for many months and has refined the atmosphere model:

The surface of Venus has only been photographed by the Venera probes.

The image above is from Venera 13. The probe survived for only 2 hours before being crushed by intense pressure and burned by sulfuric acid.

Other views of the surface - as shown by the second and third image above - is possible by radar.

While no evidence of tectonic activity exists today, the lack of impact craters on the surface indicates that activity did occur but not for very long.

Other surface features:

  • 60% rolling planes
  • 4% highlands
  • 16% volcanic peaks (shield volcanoes)
  • Southern hemisphere shows evidence of cratering
  • Northern hemisphere shows no evidence of cratering

There are many unanswered questions regarding Venus. Careful study of the atmosphere can perhaps teach us a lesson in our own atmosphere. Additionally, the process of volcanism and the presence of lava flows remains an area of continual study.

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